Although I wish I could write that the past few days have been dull and uneventful aside from medical cases, I am sorry to report that the child I spoke of in my previous entry has been kidnapped. Nobody knows who took the child or where the child was taken, but his mother, Anita Little, frantically burst into the surgery today, looking for her son and asking if I had seen him.
I tried to calm her and retrieve some facts in order to help her locate her missing child, but she said all she knew was that, in the middle of the night, there was a great crash in their house along with screaming from the youngster, and when the mother and father reached his bedroom to see what was the matter, he was gone. She said the father saw a figure outside and he gave chase, but after about thirty minutes, the father returned, saying he lost track of the criminal. He assumed that the child was knocked out along the way, as the boy’s cries were aiding the father in the chase of the suspect.
The mother was now speaking to everyone in the village, asking if they had seen or heard anything unusual since last night and checking to see if perhaps the boy had escaped the clutches of the suspect and had wandered back to town. I apologized and told her that I had no information regarding her son’s whereabouts, and she broke down, weeping bitterly. A little put off by her anguished display of grief, I let her sit down in the empty waiting area and made her a cup of tea.
“I’m sure he’ll be found soon,” I said kindly, sitting next to her and taking a sip from my own cup.
She continued to cry, though she had softened a bit since I had given her the tea. “Oh, Dr. Turner, I just can’t believe Johnny is gone! Who would be so evil as to abduct a poor, innocent child?”
“I do not know, ma’am, but I can assure that if I hear anything or see anything, I will let you know immediately. This kind of crime is unforgivable.”
“Thank you so much, Doctor,” she said, sniffing. “I’m sorry to have bothered you… I just hoped that maybe he had shown up here somehow since he’s taken a liking to you.”
I raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Has he?”
“Yes, truly. He was reluctant to stop reading the books but he said that he trusted you, so he helped me burn them.”
“Is that so? I’m honored, then.” It warmed my heart that the youngster had taken a shine to me, but it also hurt to know that he was possibly in great danger. “Do you have any idea who might possibly have taken him captive? Any enemies?” I only asked because I was clueless myself, though the town seemed peaceful enough. It would be just my luck for there to be some secret neighborhood warfare among the townsfolk and I would be the naïve stranger who knew nothing about it.
“We don’t have enemies around here. We’re just a normal town. But… I…” She hesitated for a moment. “I’m afraid this might have something to do with those books he found. We still don’t know who left them there. I asked my husband if he put them there as a joke… a really bad one, I might add… or if maybe one of his friends did it, since they get up to some weird things every now and then. He said he didn’t do it and he asked his friends if they did it, and all of them denied it. So neither of us have any idea who left the books there… This might sound crazy, but…” She bit her lip and looked away.
“Please, continue,” I urged.
“I think whoever put the books there may have been… unholy. Alchemy is strange and mysterious and has no place in our household nor anyone else’s in this town. There have been a few people who have passed through our town who claim to study it and there are some who even say they can use it. They were trying to, I don’t know, recruit some of the village folk to their religion or whatever it is they follow. They seemed nice enough, but that was probably just a ruse to get us to trust them. Anyway, we don’t welcome those kinds of people here, though, so they got the message pretty quick and didn’t stay long. However, there are rumors that they’ve set up camp not far from the town. I don’t know how true those rumors could be, since our local priest hasn’t felt any abnormal activity lately. Not even when the last child was kidnapped…”
“Wait, are you saying there’s been more than one kidnapping recently?”
“Not too recently,” said the mother. “It happened… five months ago, I believe. His name was Tucker Jones. He was about Johnny’s age when it happened. The Jones’ are another farming family that live not too far from us. I don’t know if you’ve been down to the farms, but they’re on the southern edge of town. All of us farming families live in small but decent houses with large fields, some of which we share. We rarely quarrel amongst ourselves, and when we do, it’s usually about selling prices at the market or land ownership. The farmers almost always work things out within a few days of a problem arising, though.”
“Was there are a quarrel around the time that Tucker was kidnapped?”
“No, there wasn’t. It was just a normal day. He was out playing in the field while his father was tending to the crops, but he was supposed to be keeping an eye on the child as well, since Tucker was known for being quite the adventurer. Mr. Jones saw his son playing by an old oak tree, looked away for a few seconds to water the tomatoes, looked back, then his son was gone. Like he had just disappeared. The grass is someone high and Tucker was a little on the short side, obviously, since he was only just a young boy, but his father took off running to find him. He searched the field before going around to tell the others, and everyone went on a search for the boy. No one ever found him, though.”
“Do you know if the boy was acting strange before he disappeared?”
“Mrs. Jones told us he had been a little sleepier lately, but he’d still go and play in the fields every day. However…” She paused again, looking unsure of herself. “I’m not really supposed to tell anyone about this…”
“Please, ma’am. If there’s any sort of connection between these two cases then anything, even the smallest detail, could aid in the search for Johnny. I ask politely that you continue.”
“There was… there was a weird-looking circle in the field where Tucker disappeared. Right next to the oak tree. It looked like it was filled with some of those weird alchemy symbols that were on the outfits those travelers wore and on the books they carried. Mrs. Jones didn’t want rumors of the family being involved with alchemy spreading to the town, so she asked that the circle be destroyed and covered up. You’re the only person outside of the farming families who knows about this. We don’t know if Tucker was kidnapped for certain or if he just ran off, but the story that the rest of town knows is that he was abducted.”
I thought carefully about all of the information she had given me, then I asked one final question. “You said that your husband was the one who let Johnny keep the books. If everyone in town is so opposed to alchemy, then why did your husband think it was okay for Johnny to have the books?”
“I honestly don’t know what was going through his head. He said that, smart as Johnny is, there was no way he would understand what was in those books. I refused to look at them, but my husband said he couldn’t make heads or tails of the books himself, so he figured it was harmless to let the boy read them. Well, as much as he could ‘read’ them, anyway. He said they were mostly pictures and a lot of the writing seemed to be in a different language.”
“It still doesn’t sound like it was a good idea for him to be in possession of the books,” I said. “Even if he couldn’t read them, it’s still devilish materials.”
“The thing is, Johnny only told us about the books reluctantly. We saw him reading them one day, asked him about them, and after he threw a little fit about us taking it away to look at it, he explained how he had found them and how interesting to look at they were. He just seemed so attached that my husband didn’t have the heart to take them away from him. He figured that Johnny would get tired of them after looking at them for a few days, anyway. Then he started complaining about the headaches, and we came to see you… and you know the rest.”
“I see. Thank you for sharing your story with me, Mrs. Little. I appreciate your willingness to tell me all the facts you know. Rest assured, I won’t tell a soul about the alchemy circle in the field. I swear.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” she said, looking at me for a moment before leaning in to give me a tight hug. I blushed a little, the touch of a woman being quite unfamiliar to me. “It felt kind of… good… to share all of this with someone. You’ll keep in touch if you find out anything, won’t you, Doctor?”
“Of course,” I promised. “Take care, ma’am. Be safe on your way home.”
She took her leave and I was left alone to my thoughts. I didn’t have any other visitors today aside from her, so I closed up early and am now writing this. Penning this entry has helped me think more clearly about the facts I was given today, and though I don’t know how much a simple doctor like me can help in a kidnapping case that may or may not involve alchemy users or other strange folk, but I will do my best to keep my promise.
In any case, I have to remember that my jury duty is in two days. I’m not sure if I can handle much more drama, so, oddly enough, I find myself now wishing that this upcoming court date will be about as uneventful as watching paint dry.